The Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the presidential candidates in Eleksyon 2022 to pledge to drop all charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima, noting that it exemplifies the “lawlessness and cruelty” of the current administration.
HRW Asia Director Brad Adams issued the call in time for De Lima’s sixth year in detention on Thursday, February 24.
“Senator de Lima’s long-term wrongful detention exemplifies the lawlessness and cruelty of the Duterte administration,” Adams said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Candidates for president should commit to free De Lima immediately and to rebuild the Philippines’ tarnished criminal justice system to meet international standards,” he added.
De Lima has been held at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Quezon City since February 2017 on charges of allowing the illegal drug trade to flourish within the New Bilibid Prison during her tenure as justice secretary.
Her alleged involvement in the sale of illegal drugs was allegedly in exchange for funds for her 2016 senatorial campaign, a charge she has consistently denied and said was made up by the Duterte government.
The HRW Asia Director underscored that the senator has continued to perform her legislative duties despite her colleagues refusing to allow her to participate in hearings even online, citing that the authorities do not allow her to use electronic devices.
He said De Lima was forced to give handwritten notes to her staff in order to disseminate them to the public.
“Leila de Lima has been a stalwart advocate for human rights in the Philippines before and since her wrongful arrest five years ago,” Adams said.
“She should not have to wait for the election of the country’s next president to be released,” he added.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, is seeking reelection in the May 9, 2022 national elections.
The senator said she wants to restore justice in the next administration, adding that her detention had made her even stronger.
She vowed to prove that the allegations against her were trumped-up. —KG, GMA News